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Germany: New IMF Candidate Gains High Acclaim

Munich, 9 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A (unnamed) spokesman for the German government has told RFE/RL yesterday (Wednesday) that Hans Koehler -- Berlin's new candidate to lead the IMF -- has won high marks internationally for his recent performance as head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The official said: "Koehler's won a lot of credit for the manner in which he resolved problems created by Russia's continuing financial crisis. He's also won praise for his internal reforms which have tightened-up the operations of the European bank [focused on investment in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union]."

Koehler has a generally good reputation in Germany. As a high-ranking official in the previous German government led by Helmut Kohl, he handled the financial arrangements for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from eastern Germany. He also played a significant role in drawing up the plans for the new EU currency, the euro.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder hopes Koehler will be acceptable to the U.S. and other large stake-holders in the IMF, thus avoiding the embarrassment created by Washington's public refusal to accept Germany's previous nominee. The rejected candidate, who withdrew from consideration Tuesday, was Caio Koch-Weser, a former executive of the World Bank, who is now a senior official in the German Finance Ministry.

Officially, Koch-Weser was also the official candidate of the European Union. But several EU members, notably France, let it be known privately that they were unhappy with his nomination.

This time France has shown more warmth for the German candidate, saying that Koehler has the necessary qualifications and background to lead the IMF. Portugal, which is the current EU chairman, has also said it will support Koehler. But no collective EU commitment is being made until it is clear whether there is firm support from all Union members on his nomination.